There’s pretty easy-to-navigate train system here, and I figured that for just a $2.50 train ticket, I could save myself the price of a shuttle ($20) or a taxi ($40), and since I’m all for saving money (ok I'll say it. I’m cheap. Happy?), I hopped on the train.
At about 8pm on a Sunday night there aren’t a lot of people using the public transportation system. By the time we got to the city center where I had to change trains, almost everyone who had ridden with me from the airport had found their stop along the way.
I was waiting on the platform for the second train in an underground station with unusually-mind-numbingly-cold-for-Atlanta weather, when this big black guy with a torn and dirty jacket and an unlit cigarette hanging from his lips came and stood directly behind me. Directly. Behind. Me. Like about 4 feet away on this empty platform which was longer than a football field.
I probably should have been scared, but I had just spent the day traveling, had a migraine coming on, and I was in NO MOOD for CRAP. I turned and looked him in the eye and said “Hey, how ya doin’?”, and just then someone else came walking through, and he moved down the platform a ways. After about 5 minutes waiting, it sort of dawned on me that out of about 50 people waiting for the train, I was the only white person around, and should I be scared? But just then, the train roared in, and that was that.
Until I got off the train and noticed The Guy getting off, too. Which, ok now I admit, sorta freaked me out just a little. But the best defense is a good offense, right? So I headed out like I knew where I was going. And then when I got on the escalator to get up to the street, he went somewhere else, so I felt better and started hunting for my destination.
I kind of knew where I was going. (Yay googlemaps!) The signs to my hotel pointed me through a big plaza, with tall flights of stairs on both ends (who designed this place??) . And just as I was trying to collapse my suitcase handle…in the dark…at the bottom of the stairs… in this big empty plaza…. The Guy came up behind me and picked up my suitcase and started carrying it up the long flight of stairs. He wasn’t running, just carrying, so I told him how nice he was and asked him how he was doing with the cold. And he said he was just getting by but it was tough. He set the suitcase down at the top of the stairs, accepted the dollar I gave him, and then continued to walk with me another block or so, and opened the door for me to get in to the basement of my building.
Looking back on it, I’m not sure how I feel about it. The little common sense I have says that was a bad situation. But was it? I didn’t think to ask The Guy, but I got the feeling that he was actually protecting me. And so today I’m grateful for guardian angels (probably more than just the one I could see) in the dark downtown of Atlanta.
And next time, I’ll probably just take the shuttle.